12 Cheshvan 5782 / Monday, October 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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A Head and Not a Tail    

A Head and Not a Tail

The lesson we can learn from this special request customarily recited on Rosh Hashanah is one particularly necessary for our generation…


On the night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to pray “may it be Hashem’s Will that we should be for a Head and not for a Tail.”  


We live in an era of record-breaking instability, often called a “throw-away” or “disposable” culture. Many people divorce several spouses over a lifetime, or find it difficult to remain with one partner, because they are not prepared to invest hard work in building a long-lasting marriage. Instability is not only a domestic problem, but people suffer with friendships, neighbors, jobs, businesses, and homes as well. People tend to think that the answer to every problem is to move or make a change. Millions of people wander from one country to another in search for a better life. 


One of the main reasons for this is because of the popularity of technology, which brings a flood of information and advertising from around the world, much more than any human brain can digest. This causes confusion among people, resulting in developing low attention spans and losing the power to concentrate and think properly. People develop habits to constantly seek new things, but they only look at them in a superficial way, perceiving the new thing as better than the old. Their opinions and desires change constantly from one moment to the next, often blindly following their media idols or the social networks they are addicted to. Through this, people lose their stability and tranquility in life. They are always looking for happiness, but really wind up ruining their entire life, sometimes ending in total destruction of their life, even suicide, God forbid. They fall into total depression and despair, since they can never find true and lasting feelings of happiness anywhere. 


It is a fact that the people who are wise enough to limit their use of technological devices don’t find themselves being dragged after the street culture, wasting time viewing new trends, news, advertising, and opinions. 


Moreover, the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) constantly works to confuse people by trying to get them to think that the place or situation they are in is not suitable for spiritual or material growth. One might think that they might need to find or try something different, a different place, a different synagogue, a different rabbi, etc. When someone starts trying out these suggestions, which are actually temptations of the Yetzer Hara, he realizes that this doesn’t bring any success either. The Yetzer Hara then tries again to persuade him, and this continues to be a vicious cycle. The main goal of the Yetzer Hara is to bring a person to doubt and confusion, thus robbing his tranquility which would allow for Avodat Hashem (serving God).  


Therefore, a person needs to be strong, and constantly remember that if his Creator brought him into a situation, it is a sign that this is His Blessed Will to serve Hashem specifically in this place and situation, and with these conditions. Even when it seems difficult, a person needs to encourage himself and do the best he can, and then Hashem will help him fulfill his unique mission in this world, as the Sages teach “he who seeks to purify himself is helped from Heaven.” 


No two people come into this world to perform the same task. Every individual has a special purpose which nobody else can perform. This is what the Sages teach “every person must say, ‘the world was made for me’!” (Sanhedrin 4:5). This is not to be understood in a selfish way, but rather in a manner of altruism. Every individual has a mission in this world that only they can do, particularly in the place and situation that Hashem gave specifically to them. 


It is written: “You shall love Hashem your God with all of your heart” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:5), which the Sages explain as “you should not let your heart disagree with God” (Sifri Devarim 32). This is the simple meaning of this teaching, but the word in Hebrew used for “God” is “HaMakom,” which means “The Place.” God is “The Place” of the World, since His Glory fills the entire world. 


However, the Holy Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin zy"a said that there is another explanation here: a person should not disagree with “the place” he resides at. This means that one should not feel that the reason he isn’t serving Hashem properly is due to his place, thus pushing off serving God until he relocates. Hashem wants every person to serve Him, no matter where. If Hashem only wanted this person to serve Him in another place, He would have made the person be born in the different place. 


The same verse continues “with all of your might” (Deut. 6:5), which the Sages say “with every measure God measures out to you, you should thank Him very, very much” (Brachot 9:5). The commentaries ask why is “very” repeated twice? The Holy Rebbe Chaim of Sanz zy"a explains that a person should never say “if Hashem gave me more money or resources, or if I were born in a different place, then I would serve Hashem better." Rather, a person should know that the measure that Hashem gives him is the perfect fit, and the absolute best situation for him, and if it were different it would not be anywhere near as good as it is now. When a person realizes this, he will be “very, very” thankful to Hashem! 


Once realization sets in, and this strong faith is embedded deep in his heart, he is able to live a life of peace, tranquility, and trust. He gains clarity and is constantly ready to concentrate on his obligations in this world. His head is truly a “head,” because it is the most stable and primary part of the body. It guides the rest of the body according to the thoughts of the mind, in an intelligent manner. 


However, if someone lacks faith in Hashgachah Pratis (Divine Providence), he lives with constant doubts, about his current location, and finds himself accustomed to traveling from one place to another without any purpose or cause, particularly when he is addicted to technological devices. The person then loses his virtual head, and he becomes a “tail” with no stability, wandering around constantly, following others without any personal opinion or self-motivation. 


Therefore, it is definitely of the most important prayers for us to say at the beginning of the year “may it be Hashem’s Will that we should be a head and not a tail”! We need to make for ourselves a “head” with stability, doing our mission intelligently, and not a tail that wags and wanders around, chasing something new all the time. 


May it be Hashem’s Will that in the merit of keeping away from distractions that remove us from our goal in life, that we should be strong in our faith in personal Divine Providence from the Creator, and each person should be worthy to be a “head” for himself. Automatically, we will be able to have a good influence on others who have not yet been worthy to the light of faith. We should be worthy to a joyous life, and a good, sweet year. 



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org  



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